The Skin I'm In

by Sharon Flake
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What is a good theme for The Skin I'm In?

The Skin I'm In is a novel about school bullying. It is set in the United States in the year of 1973. Maleeka Madison is the main character who has to deal with not only racist bullying, but also girl-on-girl bullying. Maleeka has been teased all her life because she was born with dark skin and because she wore homemade clothes. She never knew her mother and was raised by her Grandmother until her grandmother died of cancer. Her father left when she was three years old, leaving Maleeka alone at age six. The story opens up with Maleeka walking into class wearing a homemade dress that says "Do not open before Xmas".

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Another theme that would be important to discuss in today's world (and/or today's classroom) would be school bullying.  One doesn't have to look even further than the main character:  Maleeka Madison.  Maleeka is the main victim of the bullying.  In fact, she is teased mercilessly both for her skin color...

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Another theme that would be important to discuss in today's world (and/or today's classroom) would be school bullying.  One doesn't have to look even further than the main character:  Maleeka Madison.  Maleeka is the main victim of the bullying.  In fact, she is teased mercilessly both for her skin color and her homemade dresses. 

If bullying is a theme then there is not only a victim, but also at least one bully.  The irony of the bully's in this book is that they involve almost all of the other school children including the only other black boy in the class.  Further, it should surprise the reader that another black child should bully another one about being the very same skin color. 

Another aspect of the bullying theme is the discovery of how the main victim (Maleeka) deals with it.  Other than having severely low self-esteem, Maleeka tries to cope with the bullying by befriending the roughest girl in the school, Charlese, yet another bully.  Of course, by the end of the story, Maleeka realizes that neither bullying nor being bullied is the answer.  Maleeka learns to love "the skin I'm in." 

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The theme is that outward appearances do not determine the person you are or will be. Prejudice is a very destructive force, and it can lead to bullying. Bullying is very prevalent in school-aged young people, and it leads to tragedy, both internal and external. Bullying has resulted in murders and suicides at its most extreme. The toll on one who is emotionally bullied can last a life time and poison relationships with others. The self-esteem is so damaged that it causes a ripple effect of negativity on those people around the bullied person. If a role model or counselor comes along that allows the bullied to look beyond their tormentors and focus on their strengths, an entirely different life can result.

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